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Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second My father was somebody who I knew at the time had a lot of Cultural Intelligence. And looking back, I realise just how much he had. But we used to have a lot of arguments about it. He was a trader, and he wandered around the world and worked all over the world. And we used to have conversations about Cultural Intelligence. And he used to be a bit miserable that of course the world is getting smaller. You’ve got the world wide web, you’ve got travel, you’ve got so much that’s making the world smaller.

Skip to 0 minutes and 35 seconds But he used to say to me that even as it got smaller, it would not deliver on its promise of being more coherent– that north and south and east and west and tall and short and fat and thin and people with different faces, different religions, different cultures, the keeper of different generations, would continue to cross in the night and fail to work together even though the world was getting smaller. And he used to talk to me about it being– he felt like he was increasingly becoming one of the flying dead. And he used to try and persuade me to not become one of the flying dead.

Skip to 1 minute and 17 seconds The flying dead to him were people who travelled the world and landed for a day, a month, a week, an hour, and then set off and then landed again for a short period, and who travelled the world and really had no understanding of each of the places they landed. And far from becoming the people who connected up the world the way they could be, they would become the ghosts of the world flying around it. It’s not a particularly nice analogy, and you definitely don’t want to be one of the flying dead. But I talked to Issa about it. Issa is a man I love dearly who has avoided being the flying dead. He also has eight children.

Skip to 2 minutes and 4 seconds And so of course, I asked him the inevitable question, what advice would you give to your children as they began to fly around the world to avoid becoming one of the flying dead? And this is what he said. Listen. Because he grew up in America for a good part of his life, between America and Dubai. But listen. And he’s already running into a problem with that area. Because the first lesson that he picked up was I’m not seeing or hearing as much thank you in many places that I’ve been. I said, well, remember that thank you is also a sign.

Skip to 3 minutes and 5 seconds There are many, many languages where please or thank you is problematic. But it is reflected in signs. I can state something in a kind way, and that has the composition of thank you, please, sorry. You have to accept that. And I think he has come to terms with that. The second is there are situations where he’s talking to people and is there is no eyeball to eyeball contact. And he says, I find that– isn’t that rude? I said, no, it’s not. You have to accept that there are cultures where it is rude to look at a person in the eye all the time. You don’t just– because you are communicating, eyeball to eyeball. You can’t do that.

Skip to 4 minutes and 5 seconds And so I think he’s coming to terms with that. Well, there are different applications in other countries. I have to learn. And the third is speak slowly. Because the accommodation of other languages, the accommodation of other interpretations and translations, there are very, very critical.

Skip to 4 minutes and 43 seconds In the Northern Hemisphere, in the Western Hemisphere, it’s not the same, not the same speed that you can use in speaking in the Southern Hemisphere. There’s a difference here.

Skip to 4 minutes and 58 seconds The gravity is different, and so adapt. And, well, he’s been travelling now the last six months. And I think I’m keen to read his journal, because he’s picking up a lot of things. And when I don’t hear from him, then I know he’s learning a lot of things. When I start hearing from him, then I detect there is doubt now. He needs clarification. So I think those humps and bumps are coming across. He’s doing fine.

The flying dead

The world is becoming less coherent and connected even as it gets smaller. Cultural barriers still exist within organisations, teams, and between people across countries.

What we find is that people are travelling with little understanding of the places they are visiting, the flying dead. As leaders cross borders they need to be able to pick up the lay of the land as quickly as possible, otherwise they spend too much time acclimatising to their new surroundings, and nothing gets done.

In this video I will share some of my own insights into this concept and we will hear thoughts from Issa Baluch, the Chairman of African Agribusiness Knowledge Centers on how leaders can avoid some of the pitfalls when crossing borders.

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This video is from the free online course:

Developing Cultural Intelligence for Leadership

Common Purpose